In the winter of 2012, at the initiative of the balanit from Mitzpe Hoshaya, I composed two prayers for ritual immersion in the mikveh: “Prayer for a Woman prior to Immersion in the Mikveh” and “Prayer for a Woman following Immersion in the Mikveh”. [Read more…]
The Eden Center recently published breast health education posters to be hung at mikvaot. We believe that women should know their bodies well and that while preparing for the mikveh, women can easily remember to check and notice any changes in their bodies and breasts. We are also aware of the emotional element of these checks and asked Sharsheret’s Director of Support Services, Shera Dubitsky to help articulate and mollify some of those concerns.
“Fulfilling the mitzvah of mikveh always triggers a rush of emotions for me. My take-away from my kallah classes was that mikveh night can feel like a wedding night every month. It marks the time my husband and I can hope to conceive a child. It’s a special mitzvah unique to women. All of these beliefs are beautiful, hopeful, and inspiring. If only that was what my mikveh experience was like.
I have a strong family history of breast cancer. I try to push this thought away most of the time. Yet, on mikveh night, I am ambushed with feelings of “could this be the time I feel something?” Why do I do the exam when I prepare for the mikveh? I know there are opinions that self-exams are not impactful. But I want to do everything available to me to protect my future. I do it on mikveh night because it’s a time that I care for my spiritual and physical well-being. [Read more…]
Nearly every Jewish woman is busy this coming Monday night– hosting or attending a Seder. And some are really busy! And on a tight schedule. And a few are even busier than others; mikveh attendants all over the world will be ‘on the job’ just as night sets and Seders begin, because they are committed to the mitzvah of immersion at the right time, and to the women they serve.
We asked a few attendants to give us their reflections on working on Seder night. We heard no resentment. On the contrary, time and again their response was appreciation for having the opportunity to be there for women at the mikveh. One attendant even mentioned having met a woman at 3am to open the mikveh so she could immerse that night.
We present their voices and bless them that they should be supported by their communities and by God in the same loving and committed way that they service women. [Read more…]
This blog was first published as a Times of Israel blog on April 3, 2017:
On the 21st of Nisan, 3,300 years ago, the Israelites stepped out of “impure” Egypt into water. They emerged from the water as a nation — the Jewish people, purified, united and on a mission to serve God.
This is our season of freedom, of releasing ourselves from the things which enslave us, which prevent us from fulfilling our potential. Every year, I marvel at how the message is relevant. But this year, the ability to be transformed by letting go of practices or perceptions that bind us feels especially relevant to me. This year, I have seen a sea-change take place around the topic of mikveh.
Women are speaking out more — and being heard — by mikveh attendants, religious councils and Israel’s highest legislative body. Significant change was made via the Supreme Court ruling that ensures that women, individually, have the right to take mastery over their mikveh immersions. The Eden Center’s work, training and educating mikveh attendants to be more sensitive and aware of women’s emotional and physical needs in the mikveh, has spread significantly in Israel to reach over 60 cities and has drawn attention and programming in major US cities. I celebrate the amazing accomplishments we have achieved in the past few months and hope to move with my nation out of murky waters of disappointment and frustration into more positive, meaningful religious experiences.
Women, it’s time to relax. I recommend taking ten minutes at the end of the day to listen to your body, to unwind and to just let go. Your daily relaxation can take many forms but it definitely involves getting off your feet and not worrying about money or kids or the dishes in the sink.
When we put ourselves out in the world, we are primed for action. Our muscles respond to environmental stimuli, constantly contracting and stretching. When we are in stressful situations, and stress can come from an infinite number of sources (a mean boss, missing the bus, checking your bank account, loud noises, getting jostled in the shuk) our muscles contract and stay contracted, forming tight knots in the middle of the muscle. Depending on your body, this can translate into back pain, a stiff neck, a tension headache or sore shoulders by the end of the day.
Some women get into the habit of clenching their pelvic floor muscles (Levator Ani) for most of their waking hours. Having a strong pelvic floor is one thing but nobody wants a muscle spasm in their pelvic floor. Like every other muscle in the body, your pelvic floor muscles are designed to contract and relax. Relaxing your pelvic floor is just as important as strengthening it. If your levator ani stays scrunched up all the time, you’ll be very uncomfortable. You might be constipated, suffer from pelvic or back pain, and even have trouble emptying your bladder, which can lead to urinary tract infections. Sex is also infinitely more enjoyable when your pelvic floor both contracts and relaxes. [Read more…]